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Success Story Interview - BJ Anderson

An Interview with BJ Anderson (bjanderson on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Gina Panettieri of Talcott Notch Literary Services.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
BJ Anderson:
My book is a dark YA about a girl whose dead grandma tries to kill her every time she spends the family fortune. My inspiration came from growing up on a ranch and hunting for buried treasure. Unlike the character in my book, I never found anything of much value.
QT: How long have you been writing?
BJ Anderson:
I have been writing for about ten years.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
BJ Anderson:
The book took me a couple of months to write. Then I set it aside while I moved and came back to it for a couple of months of editing.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
BJ Anderson:
I've felt like giving up many times, but it only lasted a day or two. I love to write, and it always brings me back.
QT: Is this your first book?
BJ Anderson:
No, this book is one of many.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
BJ Anderson:
I have a few college writing classes. I have a degree in Biology, but I wrote while I was earning that degree. I used to plot story ideas during Organic Chemistry. Maybe that's why I didn't do so well in that class. Other than that, I've taken online writing classes and gone to some conferences.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
BJ Anderson:
I write whenever and wherever I can. As long as I have my laptop, I'm pretty good at finding the nearest chair and adopting it for my office.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
BJ Anderson:
I have no idea. Over and over and over. I don't stop editing until I can get through the printed pages without writing marks all over them. More than ten.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
BJ Anderson:
Yes! I love my beta readers. They are fantastic ladies, and my book wouldn't be any good without their input.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
BJ Anderson:
I used to write strictly from the hip, but now I rely heavily on my outline. Even with my outline, sometimes my story goes in a totally different direction than I anticipated. So, I have an outline, but I'm flexible.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
BJ Anderson:
I queried in November, but pulled back after a few rejections offered similar feedback. After some edits, I started up again in January and received my offer at the end of that month.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
BJ Anderson:
I sent out 15 queries.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
BJ Anderson:
I looked for agents who represented young adult horror. Then I narrowed those down to agents who had read a partial or full from one of my previous manuscripts.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
BJ Anderson:
Yes, I tailored each query letter to the specific agent. Most were, "I enjoyed your interview," or "You mentioned on twitter that you're interested in YA horror." My query letter to Ms. Panettieri was different because I'd participated in a Writers Digest workshop with her for a previous book. I was able to tailor that query better than others.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
BJ Anderson:
Use every resource available to you. Make sure your book is as good as you can get it. Read books on writing, research agents, and learn how to put together a strong query letter.

Query Letter:

Dear Agent,

(Personalization) I wonder if my 70,000 word, contemporary YA horror, THE HOARD, might interest you.

Seventeen-year-old Nadia Rabinovich doesn't cry at her grandmother's funeral. Instead, she reminds everyone in attendance that the old woman was responsible for her brother's death and her mother's catatonic state. Nadia's rant angers her dad enough to get her grounded until she graduates, but since no guys want to date her anymore, she doesn't care.

Nadia doesn't have time to wallow, and she's put to work cleaning up her grandmother's leftovers. She discovers a map that leads to a fortune buried in jars at the family ranch. Nadia and her dad pay off the mortgage and buy the horse Nadia has wanted since she was four. The future seems bright until the house burns down and the horse tries to jump off a cliff with Nadia still in the saddle. Nadia races to get rid of granny's ghost, but discovers something far more sinister is bent on sending the entire Rabinovich family to the grave.

I have a degree in biology, but I gave up my job at the university cadaver lab to write. I’m a member of SCBWI, and I’ve had short stories published in the ezine, Electric Spec, and the Genre Wars Anthology.

I have included the first ten pages of THE HOARD. I would be happy to send the full manuscript at your request. Thank you so much for your time and consideration.